Restaurant Marketing: Effective Strategies for Acquiring New Guests in Your Community

Restaurants spend a lot of money every year trying to attract new guests. It is by far the largest portion of the marketing budget. Data collected from Tuee using over 30,000 data points, indicates that new guests only account for about 25% of a restaurant's total business on average.

What does this mean? It is not saying that attracting new customers isn't important, but perhaps you should be careful about spending too much time on it, if the effort does not equal the reward.

This unfortunate reverse example of the 80/20 rule, whereby about 80% of your efforts and marketing budget goes to only about 20% of your revenue generation. Think about that! Now think about how you can get out of this debacle, because new customers are important to keep your restaurant alive. Nonetheless, something that accounts for 25% of your revenue should probably only receive about 25% of your time and money, right? Keep reading if you want some quick and affordable ideas on how to attract new guests to your restaurant.

1. Partner with other local businesses
Many restaurants have successfully used other businesses to market their restaurants. Most often these other businesses are looking to create mutually beneficial relationships and are more than willing to work with you.

For example, your upscale restaurant could partner with a flower shop – let the flower shop include a subtle and stylish note on the table decorations in exchange for free or discounted flowers. An extension of this used to attract guests could be a "dinner for two" which includes keeping the romantic single rose that adorns the table.

Other ideas include go to the local bakery for a supplier. Granted it may be a little more expensive, even after negotiating a price, but let them put up a sign in the store to "Visit Mike's Seafood Restaurant for great meals using our signature bread" and you can make sure to mention them in the menu or a table card: "Tomato and Basil Bruschetta served on Mama's Home Bakery baguette slices."

2. Host Local Community Events
Get to know the local community and host some local events. This will allow the people locally to get to know who you are and earn you some brownie points as a business that helps out the community. People are often inclined to dine at businesses they have seen active in local community events.

For example, a sports bar/restaurant might partner with a local team to be their designated after-game drink location for their once-a-week games. No matter the sport, no matter the level. This will attract a few core customers who are likely to become repeat customers, but it will also bring a few new tag-alongs with each visit. Many of these customers are then likely to come back even when there is no game.

Other ideas include sponsoring a local high school sports team. Any restaurant could see if there is a rotary club you can work with or a PDA meeting that wants to avoid the monotonous classroom or gym for their meetings. You could also put a little more skin in the game by sponsoring a local high school sports team. Connect it to a healthy children initiative in your area. Let people know that your restaurant is a place where healthy food/living can be expected. Viola - successful marketing!

3. Host Combined Events with People who have a following
One of the best ways to promote your restaurant to new guests is to work with a well known local individual and provide them with a place to reach their audience. If possible, allow an influential person to host their event at your restaurant.

For example, if you are trying to attract affluent people and young professionals, you could host a comedy night and invite local comedians who will benefit from the exposure. The night itself should be profitable and the event will draw the right kind of crowd to become repeat customers.

Other ideas include having local associations do their weekly or monthly meetings at your restaurant, like the real estate group, or even the local restaurant association.

In conclusion…
These are mostly give and take strategies that are mutually beneficial. What in life isn't a give and take, right? Give 80% of your marketing budget to 20% of your business or spend a few hours in meeting local businesses to set up relationships that will pay dividends for a long time to come. The restaurant business is a human business. Don't let that stop with the server-guest interaction.

Get to know your guests and find out what they want. Many want a trusted source to recommend places, a partner to interact with in the community, and a venue to socialize with their friends and associates over a drink or good food.

This guest post written by Vikram Rao – co-founder of Tuee - redefining restaurant guest relations.